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New Florida elections law tightens rules on mail-in ballots

Critics argue law will make it harder to vote by mail
Posted at 7:15 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 19:24:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — More than half of Florida voters mailed in their ballots for the November 2020 election, including Alex Berrios.

"When you're working a job, it's sometimes difficult to get to a polling place," Berrios, who is also the vice chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, told WPTV on Thursday.

Berrios also helped others register to vote by mail in November.

"The lines can be long and you may not have the time to wait in that line," Berrios added.

The vote-by-mail restrictions Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Thursday in West Palm Beach include a provision that voters will have to register every election cycle to vote-by-mail. That's essentially a two-year renewal, instead of the current four.

The new law also states that if a signature on a vote-by-mail ballot does not match the signature on file at a county supervisor of elections office, the supervisor must report it.

RELATED: Florida's new election law: What does it mean to voters?

Florida's rules were not so strict in November when current President Joe Biden got more votes statewide from mail-in ballots than former President Donald Trump, but Trump trounced Biden among voters who went to the polls and went on to win the Sunshine State.

That trend was mirrored in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties, where Biden won the mail-in votes, but Trump won the polling places. The results bucked recent election trends.

2020 Presidential Election data for mail-in ballots in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties

"Historically in Florida, the Republicans have done the best in mail-in balloting," Dr. Kevin Wagner, chair of the Department of Political Science at Florida Atlantic University, said. "It's traditionally a way Republicans have overcome same-day losses to Democrats."

Wagner noted that Republican candidates received about 200,000 more mail-in ballots than Democrats in the last three statewide elections, unlike 2020, when voters had to wear masks to polling places.

"A pandemic may not be a good way to project how the trends in voting will continue to go," Wagner said.

Berrios said if courts don't strike down the new law, his party is ready to help voters overcome the hurdles they'll need to clear if they want to vote by mail.

"People had expectations based on their previous experience in 2020 are not going to have that experience in 2022," Berrios said.